Our experience in Guatemala was incredible and so impactful! We had the opportunity to work in an 'orphanage' (truly a shelter for girls) with teenage moms and their babies - victims of rape or abuse. We held babies, changed babies' diapers, consoled mothers and in all ways helped these young women with their babies. They needed our help and we greatly appreciated the opportunity to be of assistance. The second week we made 2 cookstoves for two impoverished families who now can cook safely for their families. (One family was cooking all meals in the rim of a wheel and had previously scarred/burned a child from the cooking method). The work was very labor intensive and involved mixing cement, laying bricks and cement and filling the cookstove with dirt and adobe bricks under the direction and with the help of a local contractor/coordinator.
While in Guatemala, IFRE Volunteers also placed us with a host family and we had the opportunity to 'live like a local' and see firsthand what the living conditions are in Guatemala (this is not a shack like some Guatemalans live in, but a home with electricity and water and a family who provided us with meals in addition to our rooms). IFRE Volunteers also provided us with immersion Spanish lessons for two hours each day which greatly helped us communicate while working on our projects. IFRE Volunteers was great to work with as we prepared for the trip (Kim and Customer Service) and was very helpful in identifying and lining up options for excursions over the weekend (we hiked a volcano and went to a hot springs). Oscar, the in-country coordinator, was also very critical in organizing our activities and providing us with all the opportunities to make a difference.
This is not the 'volunteer tourism' that many people worry isn't really helping others - it is truly volunteering that makes a difference in the lives of the people in Guatemala. They NEED your help and while this is a 3rd world country and you will sacrifice the comforts of home in order to participate, it is affordable and the work you do will make a difference. I highly recommend IFRE Volunteers. I also appreciate that there were no hidden fees or additional costs sprung upon us once we got to Guatemala. We felt and were safe the entire time we were in the country. We had free time in the evenings and were able to take advantage of modern options (i.e., McDonalds) near the main central park in order to have wifi and share pictures with our family/friends back home.
The office is located close to the host family and projects and we were able to safely walk between most activities which further enabled us to see the people and the culture and further enriched our experience.
Review by CliniSys3 months ago
I volunteered in Guatemala February 2020. It was an amazing experience. I signed up at the last minute and the organizers at IFRE were very accommodating despite the rush. The contact person in Guatemala picked me up at the airport even though my flight landed at 12am! I was very appreciative. The host at the house where I stayed was amazing. She was always trying to make sure that I was happy. The home stay provides 3 meals a day which can help with your in country expenses. I do suggest that if you are going to a country where they don't speak English, you should take lessons before or during your stay. I spent a lot of time researching volunteer opportunities abroad and IFRE was by far the least expensive!! Everyone that I have come in contact within the organization has been very helpful and professional. I plan to use them again next year when I volunteer abroad.
Review by Cornelis3 months ago
Staying these past two weeks with Michael and his family has been absolutely wonderful! This was my first time in Sri Lanka and he made it feel at home. He would always ask how we were and if we needed anything. He also always made sure we were feeling safe while we were here, and he would always check up on us. His hospitality was great. They would make home made traditional meals for us which were delicious! His home was beautiful and right by the coast. It was also in walking distance from the town so it made it very easy to be able to do things. Michael took us on so many different and fun tours around Sri Lanka, while teaching us about history and culture. The volunteering part was also amazing. I loved being able to work with the kids. I really enjoyed Sri Lanka, and it would have been a totally different experience if it wasn't for Michael.
Review by Zoroastro Ryszynska1 year ago
I am writing this review because I got scammed and I don't want to happen to anyone else. I paid a lot of money believing that I was going to help by volunteering in the less economically countries that i went. The truth is that they did not only take advantage of me by taking all my money but they also take advantage of people which leave in a less economically developed countrie and are really poor!
Review by Esx1 year ago
Volunteering abroad ethically, has been an aspiration for my wife and I and we took a chance after a ton of research. Unfortunately we didn't get what we paid for in IFRE's Kenya placement with Boundless Loves, which didn't match their online description of Cultural Conservation. On top of that, communication issues, cost overrun and lack of direction made us leave our project early.
IFRE didn't communicate costs well, and the money we paid for our program placement didn't have a portion go to the project there as the IFRE website claimed. Boundless Loves' projects didn't have a lead or any actual projects for us to join, and we had to create our own. They put us in front of cute children, trying to make us feel sorry for them so that we would donate more, and "coordinators" were constantly asking for more money. For any project we wanted to start, we had to make our own plans, fund and direct help for them--which from everything we've read is not very helpful because we're simply forcing our biased fixes that may not fit the local needs or culture. Without leadership or proper oversight, and not receiving useful information, we were left bewildered, frustrated, and unable to help in a meaningful, long-term way.
Finally, IFRE or known as Global Crossroads in EU isn't a volunteer organization, they're a volunteer placement group, so if you can connect with a group on the ground, you can save $300+ per person. Additionally, extra services come at a premium, for example our safari cost twice the going rate in Kenya with no difference in experience for the other safari goers who paid half the cost.
Review by Nazrat1 year ago
I volunteered at the Upendo orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania with IFRE. My experience at the orphanage was incredible. My in-country coordinator had prepared a room for me, she welcomed me with open arms and always made sure that I was well taken care of even though I was supposed to be there helping them. It was amazing to see how happy and loving they were even though some had little more than the shirt on their back. It was truly a humbling experience.
I am happy that I used IFRE Volunteers for my first experience in Africa because it provided me with the security and reassurance I needed. There was always someone there to help me. I was picked up from the airport and taken to my host family without any hassle. The country coordinator also did all my paperwork to get a work permit, took me for a few tours around the city to familiarize myself, organized a safari for me, and even took me to the hospital when I wasn't feeling very well. I found IFRE cheaper compared to some of the other companies I researched. Therefore I agreed to volunteer with them.
From all angles it was absolutely an amazing experience. I would definitely recommend the experience.
Review by Lenairria1 year ago
Our group had an excellent time staying with Michael and his family while in Sri Lanka. Five members of our group stayed at Michael's house while five others stayed with his daughter. We stayed two weeks all together learning about the language and culture of Sri Lanka and volunteering.
Michael is very knowledgeable and was able to share with us a great deal of history on Sri Lanka and help us speak useful phrases.
At all times, whenever our group needed anything, Michael was always quick to respond. He helped us make changes in our volunteer schedule as needed, move students around in the two houses, and was very attuned to our needs. I want to thank Michael for all of the work that he and his family did to help us feel welcome in his home and in Sri Lanka.
I wish our experience with the IFRE office was as great as it was on the ground with Michael. I understand that they are a large organization in many countries, but we had significant issues dealing with them. In the week leading up to the program, our main office contact went on medical leave. As the new person took over communication, they made changes to the total cost we agreed on, then the payment was demanded upfront (before we had agreed to pre-pay half and then pay half at the end). After months of planning, we were told that the program would be canceled unless we met these stipulations.
We were worried about how the experience would be when we began because of our experience with their office, but as soon as we met Michael, his willingness to work with us gave us confidence that it would be a good trip.
I don't believe that IFRE is a bad organization, and perhaps our experience with the office was unique. I recommend being very clear early on about payments especially if volunteering with a large group.
Review by Jsav MacGrogan3 years ago
They are just asking for the money, its so bad, if you got lucky you will do the program but if you have a problem no one is there to help you.
For I stoped them when a girl asked me to sent 1100$ via western union in the same day, rushing me all the time to pay, pay and pay, but may placement was in June.
They are crap very bad company and no proffesionls at all.
Now I am no getting may money back, no one reply to my mails.
But I am going to review in every single page I can.
Review by VSta Sydow4 years ago
I would like to share the experience I had with IFRE in India. I have recently come back from a one month summer volunteering project where I worked in a slum school in Faridabad. Overall, I had an incredible and very positive experience in the country. However I also experienced a couple critical points with IFRE:
1) According to what I had to pay for this four week volunteer program, I realized during my work experience that certainly not a lot (if any) of the money reaches the school. There are no proper tables, no exercise books and few reading books in the school. For this reason I am wondering how the 1,899$ that I paid for this trip has been used by IFRE.
2) I noticed that IFRE does not require any background checks of the volunteers. Anybody, whether with good or bad intentions can work with the children in the school. This could be a potential danger for the students.
3) Volunteers do not need any teaching experience to work in the school. Additionally, no lesson plans or instructions on what to teach the pupils were given to me when I arrived in India.
4) I had difficulties with the payment of the trip; I was overcharged on one occasion and asked to repay the entire program fees on another occasion. Also, I had to email IFRE for an invoice.
5) Unlike mentioned on the website, where it states that "IFRE's staff also visits each volunteer every 1-2 weeks", the other volunteers and I got no such visits within my 3 week stay in the school.
6) IFRE (or Global Crossroads who IFRE works with) did not follow the program mentioned on the IFRE website accurately. For example I did not get to visit the city of Ranthambore at all. Unfortunately no alternative excursion was proposed to me.
7) On one occasion, my parents contacted the country coordinator in India and he gave them incorrect information about my location in the country.
8) During the time I was sightseeing, I was asked by the local IFRE/Global Crossroads contact to give extravagantly high tips to the drivers and guides.
Therefore I do not recommend traveling with IFRE Volunteers.
Review by Jimetta Mikalauske7 years ago
IFREVolunteers a non-profit organization had organized volunteer abroad programs in my school & I had also participated in it. There I enjoyed too much even through their volunteer & humanitarian trips abroad, I enable to spread love and compassion to poor children & improving the lives of destitute children. They offered me a great opportunity to explore new countries get to know about different shades of nature. I am so thankful to IFREVolunteers who has given me this grand opportunity.
Review by Dertennem7 years ago
I have joined the program of volunteer in Thailand by IFRE volunteers and I really felt that my life is changed because the work which I did is the work which will always give me pleasure and I will cherish this through out my life. All this has become possible due to IFRE Volunteers so a big thanks to them.
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